Duty 12

Allura hadn’t given much thought to what planet Simestia would be like. It was a world forgotten, a world that had been abandoned by both the Doom Empire and the Galaxy Alliance. That led Allura to believe there wasn’t much of value to be found on Simestia. It wasn’t even a world that could be a viable strategic location. Not when it was located on the outskirts of the Denubian Galaxy, far away from other planets and outposts. It’s position left it isolated. It would have been a neutral world, if not for the fact it was still technically part of the Doom Empire.

But the Empire’s claims were in name only. The Drules had turned their backs on Simestia and it’s people. The way Lotor and the other Drules acted, it gave Allura the impression planet Simestia had all but been forgotten by the Empire. She was left with many questions, Allura curious about the situation that had brought Simestia to Doom’s attention in the first place.

But she wasn’t getting a chance to ask, Lotor and the other Drules busy with last minute preparations. Allura was all but ignored herself, though not to the point she could wander off on her own. She found that out the hard way, Allura inching away from the group of Drules, hoping to slip away unnoticed. Vorlac had immediately grabbed her by the arm, giving her a chastising look. He’d go right on holding her, his grip firm as the Drule forced Allura to run to keep up with his quick gait.

He wasn’t the only one hurrying. All the Drules were, each busy on a variety of assigned tasks. They were abandoning the ships they had arrived on, the limited amount of supplies they had brought were being taken towards a new kind of transport. The new transports were some kind of cruisers, ones capable of traversing both land and air. There was many of them, each cruiser only able to hold a small number of people inside.

Allura would be guided to sit inside one, the doors being locked close. She’d sigh, and fiddle with the doors, but no amount of force could budge them. She had nothing to do but sit back and wait. At least it was comfortable inside, the cruiser climate controlled. Outside it had been warm, the heat just short of unbearable. Allura didn’t know if all of Simestia was like this, or if only this part of the world was in the midst of it’s summer season.

It was certainly beautiful from what she had seen. Allura had sat on the bench with Lotor, watching as the ship they were on descended to the planet’s surface. The lower they went, the more she could see, landscapes becoming clearer in detail. The golds and oranges of the planet’s colors came from the trees and grass of the land. Allura was used to fertile green planets, but Simestia seemed in a permanent sun kissed state.

It was beautiful in an alien, exotic kind of way. It was also a verdant paradise, Allura having noted the few signs of civilization were spread out few and far between each other. It left her with the feeling Simestia wasn’t a very populated planet. But then, it stood to reason that when the Doom Empire had first arrived, they would have carted off most if not all the people who lived here. All in order to make them the Drules’ slaves.

It was a fate repeated on countless worlds. The Doom Empire would come, take the people and resources, drain the planet dry in the process. Sometimes, if the planet was viable or in a strategic military location, the Empire would develop the world. Establish it’s own people on it’s lands, build up the planet’s cities and technology. No such care had been given to Simestia. The planet was probably better for it, slowly but surely recovering from the Drules invasions.

How long had it been since Doom had left Simestia alone? Allura couldn’t guess. Arus itself had taken years to recover from the first invasion of the Doom Empire. An invasion they had barely survived, and one that had cost Allura her parents. But the land of Arus was fertile again, the people rebuilding their cities and homes, no longer having to live underground or in caves.

Just thinking about it made Allura shudder, her thoughts turning darker. What would happen to Arus with it’s princess gone? With an impostor sitting on the throne, one who was a Drule? Would this impostor fight for Arus, or hand it over to Doom on a silver platter? Allura leaned towards the second, sure Arus would fall, her people suffering at the hands of the Drules once more. Her hands actually clenched into fists, Allura angry and feeling helpless because of the situation she was in. A situation that had been engineered by Prince Lotor.

She was upset, and showing it when the side door opposite her opened. Allura immediately gave her best glare to the man entering the cruiser, but Lotor seemed unaffected by her anger. That only upset Allura further, the girl wishing she had the courage to attack Lotor. But she knew even if she did, there was far too many Drules that stood between her and the ships. They would stop her, punish her, bring her back to Lotor. She held in her sighs, maintaining her anger with Lotor and his accomplices.

Lotor slid across the plush seats until the side of his body was touching Allura’s. She seethed at that, then stiffened when he put his hand on her knee, giving her a pat that was surely meant to be reassuring. “It shouldn’t be much longer.” He said, and despite herself, Allura was curious.

“Oh?”

“Until we reach the mansion.” He clarified. “It will be just a short journey past those mountains to the east.”

“Why couldn’t we take the ships directly there?” Allura asked.

“Didn’t want to risk drawing too much attention with our arrival.” Lotor explained. “The mansion and it’s property is close to one of the more populated areas of the planet. If we arrived in ships bearing the Alliance’s mark, it would be sure to cause a stir.”

“Why? Are the people of Simestia so loyal to Doom they would attack Alliance ships?” Allura questioned.

“They might indeed, though not for the reason you think.” Lotor said. “They simply want no trouble. Neither from Doom nor the Alliance. If Zarkon were to learn that the Simestians allowed members of the Alliance to set foot on their world….”

“He’d be furious.” Allura realized. “He’d use that as an excuse to punish the people of Simestia.”

“Yes. And if there is one thing the Simestians do not want, is for Zarkon to be reminded of their existence.” A wry look from Lotor. “They neither want his favor nor his anger. They just want to be left alone, to rebuild and prosper free of Doom’s attentions.”

Allura was quiet a moment, but her curiosity about the planet won out. “Just how did Doom come to take this planet? Surely there were other worlds, richer in resources, people, and gold. Worlds that weren’t so easily forgotten…”

“The Empire wasn’t always the vast kingdom you know of.” Lotor answered. “It had to get it’s start somewhere, and what better world than a planet that was isolated?”

“Do you mean to tell me Simestia was one of the first worlds to fall to Doom?” Allura’s eyes had widened, her anger temporarily forgotten.

Lotor nodded. “Yes. It was something like fifty years ago, when Zarkon was in the prime of his youth.” He seemed to grimace. “Back then, Zarkon was little more than a pirate, attacking worlds that were too weak to fight back, or incapable of gaining aid from their neighbors. Zarkon built the Doom Empire up, one world at a time. He wasn’t always successful with his invasions, but little by little he was gaining money and slaves. The resources to build and fund his armies.”

“I don’t even know what world was the first to fall to Zarkon’s attacks…” Lotor admitted. “Maybe even he doesn’t know…”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Allura murmured. “Not with the amount of worlds and people he’s subjugated.”

“Too true.” Lotor agreed. “But I do know Simestia was among the first. The very isolation that made it easy pickings for Zarkon, also made it worthless for much of anything else. He saw little reason to develop it’s cities. After all, what was the point if no army would settle in on this planet? The only thing Simestia had an overabundance of was people…and you can well guess what Zarkon would use them for.”

“Slaves.” Allura stated. “He made slaves of them.”

“The planet’s lucky it’s not a ghost world after the amount of killing and kidnapping the Drules performed. Nearly every man, woman and child was taken. The few who were left behind were expected to mine the planet of it’s pitiful amount of resources. Eventually it got to the point the planet’s output of resources was so low, it wasn’t worth the cost of caring for the people left behind.”

“So Doom what….just abandoned the people they had ruined?” Allura was dismayed, and even more so when Lotor nodded.

“That’s usually Zarkon’s preferred mode of operation. If a world can no longer serve a purpose to him, than it’s deemed worthless. That which Zarkon finds worthless is quickly abandoned or destroyed….” He trailed off with a sigh, a dark look in his eyes.

“And yet the planet’s recovering.” Allura pointed out.

He nodded slowly. “Zarkon is a like a disease, ruining much of what he touches. Given enough time and separation, almost anything can recover from Zarkon’s mistreatment.” The dark look remained in Lotor’s eyes, the prince turning his gaze away from Allura. She heard the front doors of the cruiser open, someone entering inside. Seconds later, the start of the engines sounded, this cruiser and the others preparing to take off.

“Simestia has been very lucky then.” Allura acknowledged. “Not every world can be forgotten by Zarkon.”

“The Doom Empire’s gotten to the size even he has trouble keeping track of every world, and the situations the planets face.” Lotor stated. “As long as they pay their tribute, and continue to not cause problems…they can stay off of Doom’s radar.”

“Hmm.” Allura gave him a sidelong glance. “So then…how come you knew about Simestia?” Lotor blinked slowly, turning his gaze back to hers. “It doesn’t sound like a world you would bother with…any more than your father has…”

“My mother.” Lotor spoke with slow hesitation.

“Your mother?” Allura was surprised, not having expected that for an answer.

“My mother is the one who told me about Simestia.” He lowered his gaze. “She told me everything. From Zarkon’s first attack, to ultimately his disinterest with the planet.”

“Why would she do that?” Allura wondered. Was it some weird Drule tradition, to speak of a child’s father’s exploits? Had Lotor’s mother hoped to stir the prince into following in Zarkon’s footsteps, inspire him to become just as ruthless a conqueror as the King was? This line of thought left her completely unprepared for the answer Lotor gave her.

“Simestia…was her world. She was born here….she grew up here, and if the Gods would have allowed it, she would have grown old here, eventually died here.”

Allura stared at him, unsettled by his words. “But…she was a…a Drule was she not?”

He was looking at her again, his golden gaze seeming to pin her in place. It made her uncomfortable, Allura wanting to fidget and look away, and finding she was unable to break the connection of their gazes. “My mother was human.” Lotor said at last. “She was a Simestian.”

“Human?!” Allura gasped, totally shocked. That was the last thing she had expected to discover about Lotor. He nodded, his expression serious. Allura found herself studying him more closely, trying to pick out the differences between his Drule blood and his human blood. Was his mother the reason his skin was a blue so much lighter than most Drules she had seen? Was his mother the reason why Lotor had so much hair, why he didn’t look so reptilian in appearance? Surely his mother had somehow tamed his Drule DNA, taking away the worst of Zarkon’s appearance, and tempering it into a much more attractive package. Not that she wanted to admit that Lotor was attractive looking. Not even to herself!

“You never knew?” Lotor asked, and Allura shook her head no. “You never even wondered why Zarkon and I look so different?” That made her feel foolish, Allura shrugging her shoulders in a helpless fashion.

“How did it happen?” Allura asked when she had recovered from her shock. Lotor lifted a brow at that, Allura hastening to explain. “I mean…she wasn’t…they weren’t…is he even capable of loving someone?”

Lotor didn’t seem to take any offense to that. “No…it was not a love match. My mother hated Zarkon. I doubt there is anyone alive who could actually love a man like Zarkon….” He shook his head, then flashed her a wry grin. “Zarkon’s not the kind of man that inspires soft feelings. Not even with a woman as generous and loving as my mother had been….”

Allura had this morbid need to understand, to know more. “What happened? How did they come to get married then….?”

Lotor seemed tired all of a sudden. “There was no grand courtship. She was just one of many Simestians enslaved by the Drules. But she was beautiful enough to catch my father’s eye. It was a beauty that drove him mad, made him covet her, made him obsessed with her. To the point he did not want to share my mother with anyone, to the point he was willing to marry her and make a baby off her.”

“It sounds like her beauty was a curse…” Allura was shivering, thinking Zarkon’s obsession with Lotor’s mother, echoed her own situation with the prince.

“Oh it was.” Lotor agreed. “If she had been only a little less beautiful, a little less spirited, Zarkon might never have even noticed her. For all the comforts of being his wife, it could not compare to all the torments and indignities my mother suffered at his hands….” Allura noticed Lotor had started to shake, his hands clenching into fists on his lap.

“Lotor….?”

“It’s nothing.” He abruptly shook off his upset, turning away from Allura. “My mother is free now…her soul up in the heavens where Zarkon will never be able to reach her.”

Allura didn’t know what to say to that. What cruelties had Zarkon done, that even Lotor thought death was preferable to over suffering at the Drule King’s hands? This was not the first time Lotor had alluded to Zarkon being far worse than Allura knew. It made her curious and frightened, the princess scared of just how horrible the truth could really be.

Lotor wasn’t saying anything more, a dark, troubled look in his eyes. It was as though he was brooding, perhaps thinking on whatever abuse Zarkon had heaped on Lotor’s mother. Allura thought she should somehow lighten his mood, but the princess had no idea how to accomplish such a thing. Nor was Allura sure she wanted to try, not after Lotor had kidnapped her. Once again Allura thought of how Lotor was obsessed with her in a way that echoed Zarkon’s obsession with the Simestian woman. Allura could only hope this obsession wouldn’t end in a similar way, the princess of Arus not wanting to die because she was so desired.

Holding in he sighs, Allura turned to gaze out the window. They weren’t quite flying, the cruiser using it’s hover engines to float along the cluttered landscape. Fallen tress and other obstacles prevented the vehicles from driving directly over the ground. Allura realized with a start they were following a path, one that had fallen into disrepair after being unused for so long.

The broken path was heading towards a mountain range. It would lead between two caverns, the walls so close together the cruisers’ sides would scrape against the rock. It gave travel a claustrophobic feel, Allura frightened their cruiser would get trapped, the side doors pinned against the walls. It didn’t help her fears that the vehicles were moving at a crawl, sparks shooting up off the sides as they tried to get through the cavern pass.

Slowly, one by one, they made it through. And once clear of the mountains, the path led into a valley. Allura couldn’t help but gasp, seeing the village for the first time. Houses were clustered together, separated by cobblestone paths. The homes and paths were going round in circles, forming a ring around what could almost be called a castle. It was certainly large enough, a veritable mansion estate, with acres and acres of land spread in every direction. The land was bordered by a chain link fence. Such was the vast amount of property, that there was even a few cottage homes within walking distant of the mansion.

Allura wasn’t surprised that the mansion was their destination. The cruisers would drive right up to the gate, which would pull apart long enough to admit them inside. It was still quite a ride to the mansion, something like two miles passing between the gate and the closest cottage.

“What is this place?” Allura wondered out loud. She was looking around, seeing the mansion had enough farm land and cattle to be self sufficient and separate from the village that surrounded it. There was even a few horses roaming the property, wild and free of any saddle and bridle.

“This is the capital of Simestia.” Lotor explained. “And this property was once it’s seat of power.”

“Once?” She questioned.

“Much has changed since then….The cities are so under populated…so far from each other, that the Simestians no longer follow one leader. Instead each settlement has it’s own leaders and laws to uphold….Nor do they have much contact between them.”

“Does that mean the rest of Simestia won’t know about our arrival here?” Allura asked.

“Oh they’ll know. We’re too much of an interest for them not to talk. But they wont interfere with us while we’re here. They’ll leave us alone so long as we do the same to them.” Lotor seemed pleased with that.

She frowned at that. “So in other words, they won’t be putting in a call to your father or the Alliance about our arrival…”

“The’d never willingly call Zarkon’s attention to this world.” Lotor replied. “As for the Alliance, well why should the Simestians bother? It’s not as though Garrison and the Alliance ever helped them when Simestia was in need.” She grumbled at that, Allura disappointed. “They probably won’t even know who we are. Simestia is so removed from the affairs of the Denubian Galaxy, I doubt they even know what the princess or Arus and the prince of Doom looks like.” A chuckle from him. “As far as Simestia is concerned, we are just Drule tourists. We’ll be a brief interruption to their lives at best, and easily forgotten once we’re gone.”

“Great.” It was sarcastic, Allura thinking it the exact opposite of great. She didn’t know if Lotor was being entirely truthful with her. He might very well be lying about the Simestian’s willingness to get involved with visitors to their world. Allura would risk anything to find out if it was lie or truth, the girl already forming schemes of how she could get the villagers to help her. If not with an outright escape from Lotor, then with a call for help to Arus and the Alliance.

But she couldn’t act just yet. She’d have to bide her time, wait for an opportune moment to arise. Patience was the key, though Allura shivered anew as she glanced at Lotor. Allura didn’t think she has as much time as she could want, the girl fearing what the prince would do to her now that they were on planet Simestia. Allura remembered how he had talked, how he acted like she would have to accept him and what he wanted to do to her once they reached their destination. With the mansion just a few feet away, Allura knew her time was all but run out. And that left her frightened all the more.


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